French Cay, Turks & Caicos
We had decided to skip the Dominican Republic (DR) for a variety of reasons (available time being one), which meant our next landfall needed to be in the Turks & Caicos, somewhere between 290 and 370 nautical miles, depending on which of the many low lying coral cays we decided to stop at. So we headed off at first light on Sunday 13th April and were quickly making good speed under full sail in normal trade winds. However in the early hours of Monday morning, the DR coast threw some changes at us – driven we think by cold night winds coming down off the mountain driving the trade winds away. We had squally and variable winds in very rolly seas until midday Monday, when normal conditions prevailed allowing us to run ”goose-winged” down wind to the T&Cs. On the second night at sea we were joined by a delicate, weary bird which perched all night on our solar panel. It was an interesting choice because with the rolly motion of the boat he kept slipping off and having to fly around and land again in the same spot! The night was also enlivened by an unexpected and almost total eclipse of the moon which lasted for nearly 3 hours.
Having made good time (160nm per day) we decided to stop at French Cay south of the main town of Providenciales (“Provo”) to get some rest before having to brave the shallow passage north. Our route kept us in deep water (thousands of metres) until a few hundred meters from the cay (pronounced key), but you could see what was coming by the skies. Deep blue water was suddenly replaced by the most vivid turquoise which literally lit up everything above it. The clouds were all turquoise as were the under-sides of all the light coloured seabirds above us. It is hard to describe and unfortunately, also hard to photograph. We had to find a passage through very shallow water to anchor – the depth means no swell gets in, but the strong trade winds still throw up quite a chop that was nice to shelter from in the lee of the tiny coral cay. However the bottom was a little bit of sand over hard coral at best, elsewhere it was too shallow or rocky, so it took us a little while to find an adequate spot to rest.
There we met a delightful British couple off a catamaran called “No Rehearsal”. They had done the route we were planning so were able to give some more detailed advice and we decided to sail in company for a few days into the Bahamas. This meant missing out “Provo”, but by many accounts that was no loss as it is very commercialised and not too comfortable for visiting yachts.